Paul Scholes has heaped praise on Nemanja Matic for the way his presence has given Paul Pogba license to roam forward for Manchester United this season.
The Serbian arrived from Chelsea back in August for £40m and has immediately settled into life at Old Trafford, missing just one game – the win over Burton Albion – since making his debut against Real Madrid.
Prior to Pogba’s injury against Basel, the pair formed a lethal pivot at the centre of midfield, with Matic establishing space and control further back to enable the Frenchman to contribute further up the pitch.
And Scholes, speaking soon after Man United’s 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, was quick to hail the 29-year-old’s influence since joining the club.
“Obviously before his injury you could see United were winning, and winning quite comfortably,” he said.
“I think the addition of Matic has helped him and given him that bit of freedom – he’s scored a couple of goals already and a couple of assists.
“He’s playing well and hopefully his injury is not as serious as it could be. They have been talking possibly about an operation today but hopefully that’s not the case and he’ll be back soon.
“Last season was tough for him but there was always going to be a settling-in period. There were two or three other players along with him who took a little while to settle down. With Matic coming in this year and the other players a year down the road I think we’ll see the improvement.”
United will only return to full strength once Matic and Pogba can play together again. Jose Mourinho has hardly missed him, with his side claiming 16 goals in five games since his injury, but the fluidity and innovation engendered by the Frenchman can never be replicated.
In the meantime, Mourinho may opt to keep using the three at the back system that saw Matic dominate alongside Ander Herrera in Moscow – especially when the presence of wing-backs alongside him means the 29-year-old, set to play his third game in a week against Crystal Palace, will have easy options out wide and less running to do.